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November 4, 2014

How to autograph an e-book

I went to see To Be Takei last night, and George himself was there for an interview afterwards. It occurred to me that I’d like him to autograph his book Oh Myyy, but I only have a copy on my Kindle.

So, here’s a proposal for the Kindle, the Nook, and for any other DRM-ed ebook reader: Allow us to embed one and only one photo into our copy of an ebook. That photo can never be replaced. It can be deleted, but then the slot is gone forever. This could be implemented as a special one-time-only annotation, and it would be managed by your fearsome machinery of control.

That way, I could take a selfie with George, post it into my Kindle copy of his book, and have the digital equivalent of an autographed copy.

I don’t see a way of doing this for open access e-books. Stupid open access e-books what with their “Oooh look everyone can read me!” smirks and their “Now everyone can learn and participate in culture” attitudes.

PS: To Be Takei was really enjoyable. Totally worth seeing, especially with an appreciative crowd.

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February 26, 2011

Has HarperCollins lost its mind or its soul?

HarperCollins has changed its agreement with the main distributor of e-books to libraries: e-books will now become inaccessible after 26 checkouts.

I understand publishers’ desire to limit ebook access so that selling one copy doesn’t serve the needs of the entire world. But think about what this particular DRM bomb does to libraries, one of the longest continuous institutions of civilization. Libraries exist not just to lend books but to guarantee their continuous availability throughout changes in culture and fashion. This new licensing scheme prevents libraries from accomplishing this essential mission.

It’s beyond ironic. Until now, libraries have in fact had to scale back on that mission because there isn’t enough space for all the physical books they’ve acquired over the years. So, they get rid of books that have fallen out of fashion or no longer seem important enough. Now that the digital revolution has so lowered the cost of storage that libraries can at last do far better at this culture-building mission, a major publisher has instituted the nightmare culture-killing license.

So, why do I say that HarperCollins has lost its soul instead of just criticizing it for this action? Because I don’t see how this scheme could make sense to a publisher unless the publisher had given up on books as a primary way we build a culture together. If you cared about books as vehicles of ideas and not just vehicles of commerce, you would have dismissed with contempt an idea that treats them as evanescent as chatter on a call-in show.

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June 16, 2010

Music industry rents a photogenic posse

BoingBoing points (via Michael Geist) to a music industry astroturf site that shows overly-happy, oddly attractive, and suspiciously diverse youths getting the maximum pleasure from cross-border DRM. We are urged to inject into our social networks our support and emotional attachment of the denizens of this fake network of non-existent corporate shills. With expected quickness, the commenters unearthed the stock photo the RIAA used.

It oddly reminds me of the “Send ’em back” site that urged today’s youth to return the mp3s they’ve shared.

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November 28, 2009

Wendy Seltzer on the other problem with DRM

Wendy Seltzer has posted an article that will run in Berkeley technology Law Journal (Jan. 25 2010) . In it she argues that the problems with DRM go beyond its failure to accommodate Fair Use:

The fair use debate is important, but it is not the only problem with DRM. Equally important, but thus far largely overlooked, is the impact on user-innovation and on the permitted development of media technology. Because DRM systems, by design and contract, must be hardened against user-modification, they foreclose a whole class of technology and mode of development. Moreover, this problem is distinct from that of fair use. Even if we could wave a magic wand and fully accomodate fair use in DRM, the incompatibility with user-innovation would persist, because it stems from a different and deeper aspect of the DRM system. Even the “fairest” DRM systems on the market today are unfair to the developers of new technology.

Anticircumvention law, backing TPMs [Trusted Platform Modules] and robustness rules, is fundamentally incompatible with deep-level user innovation…

Here is Wendy’s “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em” paragraph:

First I briefly review the history and existing academic debates around DRM to consider why they have so overlooked the user-innovation impacts. The next sections examine the law and technology of digital rights management, particularly the interaction of statutory law, technological measures, and the contractual conditions generally attached to them. I focus particularly on the “robustness rules” in licenses at at this inter- section. I then introduce the rich literature on disruptive technology and user innovation, to argue that these copyright-driven constraints significantly harm cultural and technological development and user autonomy. I conclude that the mode-of-development tax is too high a price to pay for imperfect copyright protection.

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August 13, 2009

Lego hops off the Cluetrain onto the tracks in front of it, wondering what that increasingly loud sound could be

Jake McKee was the Global Community Relations Specialist at Lego. In his essay in the tenth anniversary edition of Cluetrain (subtle product placement, eh?) he tells how Lego learned to engage with its users, and how this was good for everyone. (Josh Bernoff writes about this here.) Lego was a great example of how a business can benefit by getting down off its high horse and playing in the grass with its customers. Thank you, Jake.

Now Jake is gone from the company, and Lego has become an excellent example of how to be a clueless, frightened laughingstock. A 14-year-old user used Legos to create a stop-motion homage to Spinal Tap, which Spinal Tap projected in concert and wanted to include in its DVD. Lego refused to give permission. As a company spokesperson said: “…when you get into a more commercial use, that’s when we have to look into the fact that we are a trademarked brand, and we really have to control the use of our brand, and our brand values.”

First, I am not a lawyer, but: No. The Lego logo wasn’t shown anywhere in the video, and it’s hard to believe that Lego could win a suit.

Second, No. How customer unfriendly can you get? You sell us something that enables us to create what we want, and now you say you get to control what we create? You won’t let us take photos or videos of what we create? Does Crayola get to tell us we can’t post photos of the inappropriate messages I write with their crayons, because it might hurt their image among their target audience of 3-9 year olds and cretinous participants in political debates?

So:

Top Five Inappropriate Items to Construct out of Legosâ„¢ brand Legosâ„¢, owned by Lego Systemsâ„¢, a Lego Groupâ„¢ company

5. Legoâ„¢ Mindstormsâ„¢ dildo

4. Legoâ„¢ ThePiratesBay ship logo

3. Legoâ„¢ world’s most ineffective and uncomfortable condom

2. Legoâ„¢ official Spinal Tapâ„¢ Mud Flaps

1. Legoâ„¢ giant upraised middle finger

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15 Comments »

August 12, 2009

Apple: Totalitarian art

Jason Calacanis has an excellent post making the case against Apple, from an Apple fan’s point of view. I’m basically with him.

Doc Searls has long said that the key to understanding Steve Jobs — and thus to understanding Apple — is that Job’s an artist. We understand when an artist wants to maintain complete, obsessive control over his creations, especially when they are as beautiful as some Apple products are. But it’s not just artistry at work at Apple. Apple tends towards totalitarianism.

You can see why in its computer architectures: Its products work because they’re relatively closed systems that run tightly controlled hardware, unlike Microsoft’s operating system that has to be able to work on just about every piece of hardware that comes along. And Apple’s stuff generally works beautifully. (I switched from Windows to the Mac about three years ago.) But the hardwired connection between the iPod and iTunes — only recently loosened — is there not to benefit users, but to meet the DRM needs of recording companies and to tether users to Apple. The hardwired connection between the iPhone and the App Store represents a disturbing direction for the industry, in which Apple acts in loco parentis to protect users from their own software decisions, and (apparently) to exclude products they believe hurt the business interests of their partners. The App Store’s success makes it particularly threatening; it’s easy to imagine Apple’s rumored tablet adopting the same strategy, then other companies following suit.

It’s not an unmixed picture, of course. The removal of the egregious DRM from iTunes is a step forward, and seems to have been a step Apple eagerly took, and the movement of the Mac’s OS onto Unix added admirable transparency. Plus, Apple makes some beautiful stuff that works beautifully.

I just wish that going forward, I felt more confident that Apple is on our side, not just as customers but as digital citizens.

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6 Comments »

July 9, 2009

Brad Sucks latest album for free — and Brad still gets paid!

NOTE: The 50 copies are gone. Took about an hour.

I’m trying an experiment with a business model I like to call a reverse referral fee. Here’s how it works…

You click on a link that lets you download a copy of Brad Sucks’ latest album, Out of It. The album of wonderful music is yours for free in every sense. (Share it! Please!) But, I’m going to pay Brad for each copy downloaded, at a bulk rate he and I have agreed on.

This offer is good for the first fifty people who download it. After that, you can buy a copy on your own. Of course, Brad also makes his music available for free (in every sense), but don’t you want to support a truly webby, big-hearted musician who’s giving us his talent free of copyright, studios, and DRM? Doncha?

So, if you want to be one of the fifty, click here for your free-to-you-but-not-to-me copy of Brad Sucks’ Out of It.

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14 Comments »

April 14, 2009

RIAA DRM Mashup Smackdown

In its response to Charlie Nesson’s argument that one of the hearings in an RIAA suit ought to be webcast, the RIAA lawyer said:

“[The video footage] will be readily subject to editing and manipulation by any reasonably tech-savvy individual. Even without improper modification, statements may be taken out of context, spliced together with other statements and broadcast (sic) rebroadcast as if it were an accurate transcript. Such an outcome can only do damage to Petitioner’s case.”

So, Chris Soghoian is running a contest, asking you to mash up testimony given to the FTC about Digital Rights Management (DRM). The prize: He donates money to EFF. The real prize: The scalding breath of comedy.

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April 1, 2009

Secret DRM is the worst DRM of all

The FTC has decided that if you’re selling people stuff but not allowing them to do what they want with that stuff, you have to let them know, and not in print the size of an ant’s tush.

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June 7, 2008

DRM Zuneral: The video

Alex Leavitt recorded the DRM zuneral on May 25, at which our old friend, Digital R. Management, the progeny of CD Keys and Read Only Floppies, was given a burial at sea.

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